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He might need a wheelchair by the time he turns 30. Instead, he trekked the Appalachian Trail.

Andrew Crosby was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 16, while he was a student at Middletown High School North in New Jersey. He was also informed he might not be able to walk by the time he turned 30 and was given a regimen of high-dose medicine.

He scoffed at all of that.

He declared, “I don’t allow this illness stop me from anything.

He continued to be active for the following ten years, participating in his favourite activities like hiking and rock climbing, but there were a few days here and there when the condition’s sporadic back and joint discomfort became incapacitating. Late in 2021, he started to experience another symptom: a severe eye swelling that occasionally made his eyesight hazy.

“That was when I determined I was going to trek the Appalachian Trail,” he recalled, “and nobody was going to tell me no.”

Crosby started his 2,200-mile, 14-state journey from Georgia to Maine on March 9 of last year. He finished it in little over five months, overcoming temperatures as low as 5 degrees, 105 degrees in the summer, and a close encounter with a pack of coyotes.

The 26-year-old Middletown native most importantly triumphed over rheumatoid arthritis, which had a startling side consequence.

“Tears falling like rain from heaven”

Each, about 3 million people visit the Appalachian Trail, with about 3,000 of them making an effort to “thru-hike” its whole length; less than 1,000 of them succeed. When he was a little child, Crosby and his father, Raymond Crosby, travelled a portion of the Pennsylvania path. That encouraged a love of the great outdoors. Construction worker Raymond Crosby perished in Berkeley in 2015 after a roof caved in while being demolished.

When Andrew travelled the same section of trail that they had almost two decades earlier, Raymond was never far from his mind.

Andrew remarked, “I believe there are tears falling from heaven right now. “After spending so much time in the open, I felt a connection to him. The entire time, I was aware that he was watching out for me. He was always there for me.

That undoubtedly came in handy when Andrew came face to face with five coyotes the size of German shepherds in Pennsylvania.

We’re only 5 or 10 feet away, according to Crosby. “I was so frightened that I nearly fell over. They were sprinting and yipping halfway through the woodland before I could speak.

Avoiding a crisis. But nobody completes the trail unscathed. Crosby was bedridden for a week due to shin splints. He went to a party in Connecticut since someone he met along the route invited him, but an accident resulted in two broken ribs. The soreness from walking 30 miles per day over typically difficult terrain persisted the entire expedition. He went through four pairs of shoes in total.

According to Ken Lewaine, a family friend who thru-hiked the trail in 1982 and acted as sort of Crosby’s advisor, it is a difficult, protracted pilgrimage that after a few weeks turns into a way of life. You must handle a wide range of situations and feelings that put your fortitude, character, resourcefulness, willpower, and heart to the test.

Mike, the son of Lewaine, a former Middletown resident, is good friends with Crosby and occasionally climbs with him.

Lewaine remarked, “I have the utmost admiration for anyone who completes the trail in one shot. Yet given that I frequently experienced severe back pain due to rheumatoid arthritis, this makes it all the more amazing. I can’t express my gratitude to him enough.

Natural remedies
Crosby didn’t experience any crippling rheumatoid arthritis attacks while on his hike, despite the summer sun racking his eyes to the point where he had to wear shades every day for the last two months.

That was, in a sense, fortunate. Crosby disagrees, though.

Since finishing the path, “I haven’t had an episode – not one,” he declared. “No days I can’t move,” “No back ache, no eye discomfort.”

He believes that the event was nature’s medicine.

He claimed, “My physique is definitely 25% to 35% healthier than what it was before I left. “Daily walking like that certainly wears the arthritis out of the gears. I feel healthier now, and I don’t want to return to my pre-departure state.

To that aim, Crosby intends to start hiking the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail in July, which runs from Canada to Mexico. He is both challenging himself and conveying a message.

He stated, “I want to be an inspiration to others who don’t think they can do these things. “I have faced doubt my entire life. Who would have believed I could travel 2,000 miles on foot after being warned I might need a wheelchair by the time I was 30?

However, this goes beyond extraordinary endurance feats.

I want to inspire those who have ambitions but doubt their ability to realise them, he stated.

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